As we near the end of the Coronavirus lockdown, the one consensus opinion forming and coming from the corporate press is all-too-clear to discern: white people/implicit bias/white privilege/ environmental racism/structural inequalities/the legacy of slavery/segregation/redlining is the primary reason the virus is impacting blacks disproportionately.
If black people are disproportionately impacted by the Coronavirus, obviously this is a sign of white racism and perverse white supremacy, correct? The virus isn’t colorblind, directly targeting blacks in Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and Atlanta, while leaving white people alone.
It could never be individual black people have pre-existing health problems (and fail to social distance), which collectively make this community more at-risk than whites, because just blaming some combination of white racism/segregation/redlining/historical legacy of slavery/Tuskegee Experiments will ensure billions of dollars are directed to the black community when the Coronavirus dust settles and recompense for the dead is tallied.
It’s a simple formula for ensuring the perpetuation of white guilt to maintain the status quo: if a disproportionate amount of black people suffer from some demonstrable malady (foreclosures, denial of loan, bad credit, low SAT/ACT scores, high incarceration rates, deaths via the Coronavirus), then it’s axiomatic white people/implicit bias/white privilege/ environmental racism/structural inequalities/the legacy of slavery/segregation/redlining is to blame.
Never, ever must we consider the collective individual actions/choices of blacks as the reason behind the problem, when the blanket of blame can easily fall over all white people. [Covid-19 is ravaging one of the country’s wealthiest black counties, Washington Post, April 27, 2020]:
The intensive care unit at Inova Alexandria Hospital has empty beds, and doctors are prepared for a rush of coronavirus patients that has yet to hit the largely white suburb.
A dozen miles away at Adventist HealthCare Fort Washington Hospital Center, the ICU is full, and employees treat coronavirus patients in medical tents in the parking lot. Paramedics across Prince George’s County are summoned daily to help people struggling to breathe, and funeral home directors are searching for more places to store bodies.
Prince George’s, one of the nation’s wealthiest majority-black counties, has reported the most coronavirus infections and some of the highest death tolls in the Washington region. In the hardest-hit neighborhoods, African American and Latino residents make up more than 70 percent of households. The grim statistics mirror data showing black Americans are more likely than white Americans to be infected with the novel coronavirus and more likely to die of it.
Officials say the pandemic has hit the county of 900,000 especially hard because many residents are front-line workers exposed daily to the virus, and Prince Georgians disproportionately suffer from underlying health conditions that make the virus more deadly.
“His comment to me was, ‘I am the only pharmacist,’ ” said Bowie resident Nicole Boynes, whose husband, Sean, had asthma but kept working at a pharmacy he helped found in Greenbelt. Sean Boynes, a former Air Force captain, died of covid-19, the disease the virus causes, on April 2. He was 46.
Nearly 14 percent of adults in Prince George’s have diabetes, according to county health statistics, 36 percent are obese, and 64 percent of the county’s Medicare beneficiaries suffer from hypertension — rates above national and statewide averages. There are fewer hospital beds and primary care doctors than in neighboring jurisdictions, which means residents are less likely to treat medical problems early. The county also spends less on public health efforts than its wealthier neighbors.
The 174 county residents who had died of covid-19 as of Sunday, according to The Washington Post’s tracker, include educators, a maintenance worker, a prominent artist and a pastor. One of the youngest victims was Leilani Jordan, 27, who had cognitive disabilities and worked at the Giant supermarket in Largo.
As the number of cases continues to rise, officials are promising to put more money toward public health, even as the prolonged economic shutdown decimates government budgets. They are determined to improve wellness and find ways to bring doctors and nurses to the communities they say have too long been ignored.
“It’s served as a magnifying glass for challenges we knew we had,” said County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D). “We know that when this is over, we can’t return to business as usual.”
Death transcends class
Maryland’s first coronavirus death, announced March 18, was a Prince George’s man in his 60s with underlying health conditions. The deaths that followed have been people from poor neighborhoods inside the Capital Beltway and wealthy subdivisions outside of it.
A Washington Post analysis found that among the Zip codes with the highest per capita infection rates is 20769, which includes Glenn Dale and has a median household income of $148,800. But there is also 20712, which includes Mt. Rainier, on the border with the District, and has a median household income of $54,800.
Of the deaths in Prince George’s for which the victim’s race or ethnicity was reported, 130 were African American, 15 were Latino, and 19 were white, according to county data.
Jordan, the supermarket worker, lived in Upper Marlboro. Her mother, Zenobia Shepherd, warned her about the risks of the pandemic, but she said Jordan probably did not fully understand.
“She said, ‘Mommy, I’m going to work because no one else is going to help the senior citizens get their groceries,’ ” Shepherd said. “She only stopped going to work when she could no longer breathe.”
Shepherd said her daughter’s death made her more aware of the disparities between white and black communities. Recently, she tried to buy respiratory masks in her local pharmacy; there weren’t any. When she drove across the river to Alexandria, she had no trouble finding them.
Transition and struggle
The history of Prince George’s makes the story unfolding there distinct from those in highly segregated cities like Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans, Wright said. Prince George’s was a mostly white, working-class suburb through the 1970s.
Starting in the 1980s, it attracted more middle-income and wealthy black professionals, creating a rare example of a county that grew more affluent as white residents moved out.
Despite the concentration of wealth and education in the county, there remain pockets of poverty, and officials have struggled to consistently attract the kind of development — including grocery stores and restaurants — that residents want.
Swaths of the county are considered food deserts by the federal government. Dialysis centers are common in its strip malls. About 11 percent of residents do not have insurance, higher than state and local averages. There are 477 primary care physicians in Prince George’s, fewer than half the 1,420 in neighboring, more affluent and whiter Montgomery County, which has about 20 percent more residents.
“The reasons are structural, and they are historical,” Wright said. “The county did not get here overnight.”
There’s an awful lot to unpack from this story, though the obvious lesson is one so glaring does it even need utterance?
Go ahead and dissect this story and see if blaming white people is at all possible.
We’ll wait. Take your time.
A majority black county – perhaps the wealthiest majority black county in America – with elected/appointed black leaders providing governance to their black constituents is a hotbed for the Coronavirus, and The Washington Post has multiple writers contributing to a story bending over backward to blame white people for the crisis.
If you look closely, they trot out the old food deserts trope, in what is supposed to be the wealthiest black county in America.
This same scene is unfolding in heavily segregated cities across America (Chicago, Atlanta, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City), where black people are dying disproportionately from the Coronavirus. But if black communities are being ravaged disproportionately from the Coronavirus, doesn’t this confirm the opposite of the media attacks on white people for being behind the crisis?
After all, white flight was the original social distancing.
Think about it.